Greening the Rubble – what we have learned from working in partnership
As a grassroots project-based trust creating transitional green spaces in Christchurch, Greening the Rubble is well versed at working in partnership. From formal agreements with large government organisations such as the Department of Conservation and sponsorship deals with businesses like Resene; to handshakes from other community or interest groups like Gap Filler and Crackd for Christchurch; we have experienced the full spectrum of partnerships.
We have learned from both our successes and our mistakes. We continue to learn, but there are some core fundamentals that ring true for all.
3 things we have learned from partnerships that worked well
1 – A shared vision, goal and agreed outcome is key to a successful partnership
Each party can come into a partnership with different motivations, but if you have an agreed vision and goal, you will achieve marvellous things. For example, Fulton Hogan agreed to be a major sponsor of Nature Play Park because they wanted more paid work from DOC. But we made it easy for them too, as it was clear how they could contribute, and it fitted in with their company values to support a family-focused project.
2 – Projects work really well when both parties can each offer something unique to a project, where each brings assets or strengths that are valuable and valued by the other party.
One of our most successful and rewarding projects was The Green Room, a collaboration with Crackd for Christchurch. Crackd had a very clear mandate creating beautiful mosaic works from broken china from the earthquakes. We designed and created The Green Room that housed the chair, using plants from red zone gardens. Together we created a poignant, yet uplifting earthquake installation.
3 – Clear, open, and ongoing communication is essential
Each partner needs to agree on roles and responsibilities, actions and with regular feedback to, among, and from all stakeholders in the partnership. Trust and respect are important, and these are built on a foundation of effective communication.
3 things we have learned from less than successful partnerships
1 – Know what you will compromise on, and what you wont.
This often comes down to values knowing who you are. Quality design is a core value for Greening the Rubble, and we wont compromise on that. We were recently invited to design the landscape around an installation, but the installation designer misinterpreted the brief and had included the landscape in their design. We attempted to negotiate a compromise but in the end had to pull out. It was a brave move, but the relationship with this partner is now stronger for the honesty and we are already planning an alternative collaboration. The partner is now more aware of our motivations and unique contribution, which has in effect boosted our profile.
2 –Even when your partnership agreement is with an organisation, don’t forget that an organisation is made up of people and people are complicated
And strange and different and all sorts of weird sometimes and occasionally will do things that dont quite marry up with what you had agreed with the organisation. In fact, there was one project where a member of the other organisation was deliberately trying to undermine the project! Which is why the last point is again;
3 –Clear, open and ongoing communication is essential
If you are uncertain, or uneasy about something, communicate. Check back in regularly, and check that all is on track and that everyone knows what everyone else is up to. Give regular updates and ask for them in return. Evaluate as you go, and evaluate at the end of a project as well. Record your learnings and learn from your mistakes as well as your successes.
As we approach the 5th anniversary of the 4 September earthquake and therefore our unofficial 5th birthday, its a great time to reflect on our past projects, as well as look forward to lies ahead. It is comforting to know that by working in partnership with others we have created valuable relationships and earned respect for what we do.
Our next big partnership project is Restless Forest working again with the Department of Conservation, where we aim to create a sense of place, without permanence. Sounds challenging, but we are up for it!
What things have you learned from working in partnership?